Chancellor Angela Merkel moved within reach of a fourth term on Wednesday after clinching a coalition deal that would keep Germany’s shrinking political mainstream in power, but could leave her presiding over an unstable and fractious government.
The agreement between Ms Merkel’s conservatives and her previous governing partners, including the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP), after five months of political limbo came at a steep price for her party which had to give up the powerful finance ministry.
And the deal still faces a final hurdle. Nearly half-a-million registered members of the SDP, many of whom oppose joining another administration led by Ms Merkel, will get the final say. The deal is contingent on their approval in a postal vote that analysts say is too close to call. The results of the vote are expected by March 4.
After a third extra day of negotiations that dragged on until dawn, a relieved Ms Merkel told reporters on Wednesday that the agreement would create “the good and stable government that our country needs and that many in the world expect from us”.
After making major concessions to get the accord, she acknowledged it had been a “long road that led us here” but added that “in the end, I think it was worth it”.
The breakthrough will come as a relief to Germany’s EU partners as the bloc faces tough negotiations on migration and Brexit.
Ms Merkel, Europe’s most experienced leader, has seen her standing at home and abroad weakened by the longest stretch of coalition-building in the country’s postwar history.